At least 53 soldiers and a civilian have been killed in an attack on a military post in northeast Mali, according to the country’s communication minister.
The attack, one of the deadliest against Malian forces, took place in Indelimane, in the Menaka region close to the border with Niger, Yaya Sangare wrote on Twitter on Saturday.
Dozens of troops killed, scores missing after raids on Mali bases
Mali: At least 14 killed after explosion hits passenger bus
West African leaders pledge $1bn to fight armed groups
He said the situation had been brought “under control”, adding: “A search and the process of identifying the bodies is continuing.”
Ten survivors were found at the outpost, which suffered “significant” damage, according to Sangare, who did not give further details.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility.
The Malian government earlier condemned the “terrorist attack”, saying it had left numerous dead or wounded but without giving a precise toll.
“Reinforcements have been dispatched to secure the area and hunt down the attackers,” it said in a statement.
The attacks comes a month after two attacks killed 40 soldiers near the border with Burkina Faso, but several sources told AFP news agency the death toll had been downplayed.
Mali’s army has been struggling in the face of regular flare-ups of violence that have spread from the arid north to its centre, an ethnically mixed and volatile region.
The recent attacks are also a major blow for the so-called G5 Sahel force – a much-trumpeted initiative under which five countries created a joint 5,000-man anti-terror force – and for France, which is committed to shoring up the fragile region.
Northern Mali came under the control of al-Qaeda-linked fighters after Mali’s army failed to quash a rebellion there in 2012.
A French-led military campaign was launched against the fighters, pushing them back a year later.
But the rebel fighters have regrouped and widened their hit-and-run raids and landmine attacks to central and southern Mali.
The violence has also spilt over into Burkina Faso and Niger where fighters have exploited existing inter-communal strife, leaving hundreds dead.